Asphalt Plant Center Of Debate In Petaluma

Last night we had a pivotal meeting, "The Health Forum on the Potential Impacts of the Proposed Dutra Asphalt Plant," sponsored by the Petaluma Health Care District responsible for the health and well-being of Southern Sonoma County. There were about 175 people there. The evidence presented by Dr. James Clark and Dr. Alice Brock-Utne was sobering and blew away any health comfort level that the Dutra presenters tried to establish regarding diesel exhaust and asphalt by-products. Dr. Alice Brock-Utne basically presented how vulnerable children and developing fetuses are, how lungs continue to develop after birth and negative changes possible in actual lung structure and function through the teen years.

The diesel exhaust and associated 2.5 particulate matter which this project would bring to this currently healthy air space, would particularly affect our children who exercise there, the schools and their students which are located within a two mile radius and who play outside, and pregnant women and infants. Currently applied thresholds (BAAQMD Health Risk Analysis) to the project do not adequately reflect children, because children have not been included in the calculations of acceptable thresholds.

Each individual reacts differently, so even when talking about healthy adults or seniors, one person may be able tolerate added pollution with only a decreased lung capacity, while another may have an asthma attack. Some of a person's adult health and sensitivity is linked to ones history of exposure to pollution as a developing child, which impacts the ability of lungs to repair themselves and also may make adults and children more allergic or more sensitive. The growing incidence of allergies and asthma is linked to air pollution. Asthmais already at record high levels in Sonoma County. Today there was a study reported on linking 2.5 particulate matter, which is contained in diesel exhaust, to the rise in diabetes.

Dr.Brock-Utne urged caution and careful consideration of approval of any project: it requires a joint collaboration of decision makers including elected officials, government agencies, scientists and doctors, and the community. Dr. James Clark, toxicologist, urged consideration of the cumulative impacts of many smaller project. So if the Dutra Proposal would potentially increase cancer by 6 .7 people per million, and there are 10 projects of this size approved in the next few years, plus the permitted existing projects with their cancer risks, the community starts to have a significant rise incumulative cancers per million. In other words it all adds up. Also Dr. Clark pointed out that the direction in EPA tolerance of criteria pollutants is always moving downward as more science informs the link between pollutants and disease. He gave as an example the descending officially acceptable levels of lead over the past 30 years, which is now at zero tolerance for children. The Health Care Forum can be viewed in its entirety on PCA. Schedule to follow.

Joan Cooper

Friends of Shollenberger Park


  1. I am wondering if we can both ammeliorate any potential impact on tax collections with a very localized benefit to reduced medical costs to our hospital/care facillities. Any ideas on how we might show a positive effect on reduced expenses at care facilities? Or even local schools? Maybe fewer lost days by students?


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